The strike in Manchester shut down the central library and there were picket lines were on every entrance to the town hall.
Many of the pickets pointed out that this wasn’t just a strike about pay but was also about the allocation of resources, the understaffing of departments and their treatment at work.
Across Greater Manchester, schools, libraries and some local government offices shut. According to one Unison rep there are even more schools shut today than during the April teacher’s strike.
Rachel Whittle, a striking teaching assistant, said, “There is real anger among teaching support staff.” She told Socialist Worker that they now have to take on lots of extra work, including up to nine hours unpaid overtime every week, and that it was common for teaching assistants to do more “teaching hours” than “assistance hours” – but for a fraction of the pay.
Fellow striker Hannah Cutts summed up the mood, saying, “The work we do is unappreciated but they can’t run the school without us – today we’ve shut it”.
The strikers have had support from other workers. At one picket line in Longsight in south east Manchester a member of the National Association of Head Teachers refused to cross. Passing members of the public shouted support and beeped horns to show they support the action.
One pensioner said everyone should come out to beat the cap on wages and that we should all be MPs and vote ourselves a wage-rise! Eddie Hughes, a picket in Longsight, said, “People understand that those who work in schools are underpaid so they support our struggle.”
Andy Cunningham and Dave Sewell
There was a lively and solid picket line of striking refuse collectors in the Unite union at the Hammerstone Road council depot in east Manchester.
Gary Gibbons the Unite shop steward, who represents about 250 bin men at the depot, said, “Everything is going up in price, and people are really struggling.
“Our basic pay rate is £6.35 an hour which is just not high enough. The offer of 2.45 percent will effectively be a pay cut!”
Another striker said that the workload was constantly increasing and sometimes it was a battle to get the overtime payments that were owing.
Unison union members picketed the housing benefit and council tax unit at Alexander House in Moss Side, Manchester. Around 85 percent of the 480 strong workforce are in Unison and the strike was very well supported.
Unison convenor David Hall said, “We are fighting over issues such as length of service conditions and occupational pay at the moment and if pay is not a strong enough issue to win on, then the green light would be given to attack us on those conditions. We can't afford that. Keep public services public!'
Pickets were out in force across Trafford council in Greater Manchester. John the caretaker at Stretford public hall joined a picket alongside strikers from social services. “We've organised a rota with people joining the picket lines at 7am, 10am and more coming down at 12 noon,' John said. “Afterwards we are going up to join the lines in Sale and then we are all back tomorrow.”
The strike was very solid across Salford with around 80 percent of workers staying out. Despite management claims that there was little support, several schools were forced to close and many offices ran a much reduced service. There were large and lively pickets at most workplaces. A rally of 60 strikers was addressed by the Vice President of the PCS, Sue Bond, who brought solidarity from the PCS. Further pickets are planned for Thursday to keep up the pressure on management.
Wigan Unison has recruited 400 members in the last two weeks in the build up to the strike. The mood feels like the 1970s, and we have been solid throughout the town. This morning we picketed the bin depot, and a number of workers from the GMB refused to cross – some of them even joined Unison so that they could join the strike.
Council workers picketed outside five sites in Birkenhead town centre, including the department of finance building and the council one stop shop. Despite the unseasonably chilly temperatures there was a good turnout on the picket lines at all the major council sites.
There seemed to be a good level of support from passing motorists, who signalled their support by tooting their horns as they passed.
One Unison steward said, “We are here today because we have been pushed into this situation. The deal we have been offered is basically a pay cut and we can't just sit back and allow this to happen. We are striking today because we have no choice, our backs are against the wall.”
There was a strong picket of Unite and Unison union members outside the municipal offices of Liverpool council. There were also smaller pickets at other council workplaces.
A lot of anger was focused on the way in which the European Capital of Culture had spent billions on encouraging private investment, but is still paying its council workers some of the lowest wages in the country.
At Maghull high school there were 12 pickets, and a solid mood.